This weekend I drove with some friends down to Panama City Beach in Florida. Aside from taking three naps on the beach and eating a Whataburger Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit for breakfast Saturday, I got to partake in one of my favorite (and creepiest) activities- people-watching. Although the beach was prime territory for this, I loved it most when we were driving.
On the way down to Florida, we went straight through the middle of Alabama, passing through towns I didn’t realized existed outside of movies. Although these towns had a variety of names (Samson, Opp, Branton, Kinston, etc.), they had some striking similarities. As we drove through, the first and last thing we saw were a small red brick, white steeple Baptist churches. The main street, usually called “Main Street”, was lined with small, red brick homes with wide green lawns, usually with cows, horses, or hogs grazing on them. All in all, these sweet Alabama towns were just that- sweet. I was struck by how simple life in them seemed and found myself thinking about what it would be like. I’ll admit, one of my life goals is to end up as a strawberry farmer so imagining myself in one of these towns was not all that difficult. I saw myself running around on one of those spacious lawns with my future family, not worried about my kids being introduced to hard drugs or sex or anything that would bring taint their innocent view of the world.
Then I saw the first confederate flag, then the second, then the third and begun to realize just how complicated these little towns are. As with whiteness, these towns were built on racism and racism is engrained deeply into them. And as a white person with white privilege, I didn’t even realize until it smacked me in the face. As a white person, I didn’t have to check my daydreams and I didn’t have to worry about my future children living in a place where they were hated for something they had no control over. So although living in Opp or Branton would potentially protect my kids from perceived evils, ultimately it would leave them in a place of ignorance where racism is the norm.